Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of a putative class, filed suit against his employers, SSP, alleging violations of various provisions of California’s wage and hour laws. SSP moved to compel arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between it and the labor union representing plaintiff.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of SSP's motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the CBA between SSP and the union provides for arbitration of claims arising under the agreement, but it does not waive the right to a judicial forum for claims based on statutes. In this case, the trial court correctly concluded that arbitrability was a question for the court, not the arbitrator, and that plaintiff's claims are not subject to arbitration. View "Wilson-Davis v. SSP America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Clapp plead no contest to concealing the true extent of his physical activities and abilities from his employer, the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF). Consistent with a resolution negotiated by the parties, the trial court granted defendant three years’ probation, and as a condition of probation, ordered him to pay restitution. Following a hearing, defendant was ordered to pay $30,095.68 to SCIF for temporary disability benefits and $81,768.01 to CHP for benefits wrongfully obtained. He was also ordered to pay $1,350 and $70,159 to SCIF and CHP respectively for investigative costs. Defendant appealed the restitution award as to investigation costs contending that, as public investigative agencies, neither SCIF nor CHP was entitled to reimbursement for the costs of investigating his claim. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that as direct victims of defendant’s fraud, both CHP and SCIF were indeed entitled to restitution for investigative costs incurred in an effort to justify discontinuance of payments and recoup money defendant fraudulently obtained. View "California v. Clapp" on Justia Law

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Appellants, truck owner/operators who performed work as putative independent contractors for East Coast, filed suit alleging that they were actually employees rather than independent contractors and were therefore wrongfully deprived of statutory protections and benefits given to employees. After the first portion of a bifurcated trial on appellants' claim under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), the trial court ruled that appellants were independent contractors rather than employees, and disposed of appellants' claims.The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that, since the trial court's ruling, the California Supreme Court has decided that Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (2018) 4 Cal.5th 903, should be applied retroactively. The court explained that Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International (2021) 10 Cal.5th 944, which held so, is controlling here, and thus the judgment may not be affirmed on the legal grounds that the trial court adopted. In regard to East Coast's alternative contention, the court concluded that federal law does not preempt application of the ABC test to motor carriers. In this case, the trial court should consider in the first instance whether appellants were misclassified as independent contractors under the ABC test. View "Parada v. East Coast Transport Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked as a delivery driver for TBS, a “last-mile” delivery company whose primary client was Amazon.com. At the start of his employment, he signed an At-Will Employment, Non-Disclosure, Non-Solicitation, Class-Action Waiver and Arbitration Agreement. Plaintiff filed suit asserting violations of the Labor Code, California’s Unfair Competition Law, and the Private Attorneys General Act, unlawful retaliation, and wrongful termination. The trial court denied TBS’s motion to compel the plaintiff to arbitrate his individual claims and to dismiss his class claims. The court found that the plaintiff was exempt from Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 1, FAA) coverage because he was a transportation worker engaged in interstate commerce and that the class action waiver was unenforceable, rendering the arbitration agreement unenforceable.The court of appeal affirmed that the plaintiff is exempt from FAA coverage and that the class action waiver is unenforceable under California law. The court reversed the order denying the motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s individual claims; the trial court improperly found the arbitration agreement unenforceable in its entirety rather than severing the class action waiver provision from the remainder of the employment agreement and considering the validity of the arbitration provision with respect to the individual claims for unlawful retaliation and wrongful termination. View "Betancourt v. Transportation Brokerage Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Quality Coast, alleging that the company's decision not to hire him was the result of race and gender discrimination and a violation of the Displaced Janitor Opportunity Act (DJOA). A jury returned a defense verdict on the discrimination claims and the trial court found that plaintiff was not entitled to protection under the DJOA because he was a supervisory employee.The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court correctly found that plaintiff is a supervisory employee for DJOA purposes; there was no error in giving the modified business judgment rule instruction at trial; and the trial court's costs award is not erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Jones v. Quality Coast, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Court of Appeal in this case centered on whether Alicia Clark exhausted her administrative remedies under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prior to filing suit against her former employer, Arthroscopic & Laser Surgery Center of San Diego, L.P. (ALSC). Clark filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) alleging ALSC committed various acts of employment discrimination against her. While Clark’s DFEH Complaint contained an inaccuracy as to ALSC’s legal name, it clearly and unequivocally reflected Clark’s intent to name ALSC as a respondent. Specifically, Clark’s DFEH Complaint named, as respondents, “Oasis Surgery Center LLC,” and “Oasis Surgery Center, LP,” which are variants of ALSC’s registered business name, “Oasis Surgery Center.” In addition, Clark’s DFEH Complaint referenced the names of her managers, supervisors, and coworkers. The same day that Clark filed her DFEH Complaint, the DFEH issued a right-to-sue notice and Clark filed this action against “Oasis Surgery Center LLC,” and “Oasis Surgery Center, LP.” One week after filing her DFEH Complaint and the initial complaint in this action, Clark filed an amended complaint in this action, properly naming ALSC as a defendant. Notwithstanding that Clark’s DFEH Complaint clearly identified her former employer as the intended respondent, the trial court granted ALSC’s motion for summary judgment as to all of Clark’s FEHA claims brought against it because Clark “named the wrong entity in her DFEH [C]omplaint, and . . . never corrected that omission.” Clark then filed a petition for writ of mandate to the Court of Appeal, requesting that it vacate the trial court’s order granting ALSC’s motion for summary judgment. After considering the text and purpose of the relevant statutory exhaustion requirement, administrative regulations, and applicable case law, the Court of Appeal concluded Clark exhausted her administrative remedies against ALSC. "This is particularly true in a case such as this, in which the plaintiff’s error could not possibly have hampered any administrative investigation or prejudiced the defendant in any judicial proceedings." Accordingly, Clark’s writ petition was granted and the trial court directed to vacate its order granting ALSC’s motion for summary judgment. View "Clark v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Rosario Contreras-Velazquez (Velazquez) sued her former employer, Family Health Centers of San Diego, Inc. (Family Health), alleging disability discrimination and related causes of action after she suffered a work-related injury and Family Health terminated her employment. A jury found Family Health not liable, but the trial court ordered a new trial as to three of Velazquez’s causes of action after finding the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict—a ruling, the Court of Appeal affirmed in a prior appeal. After retrial, a jury found in favor of Velazquez. The jury awarded her $915,645 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. However, the trial court granted in part a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and reduced the punitive damages award to $1,831,290 (a 2:1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages). The court reasoned a punitive damages award equal to twice the compensatory damages award was the maximum amount permissible under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Family Health appealed, contending certain special verdict findings returned by the first jury estopped Velazquez from prevailing at the retrial under the issue preclusion doctrine. Family Health also appealed the JNOV order on the basis that the reduced punitive damages award remained grossly excessive in violation of Family Health’s due process rights. The Court of Appeal concluded the first jury’s special verdict findings did not constitute a final adjudication of any issue and, therefore, the trial court correctly ruled that the issue preclusion doctrine did not require entry of judgment in Family Health’s favor. Further, the Court concluded the trial court properly reduced the punitive damages award to an amount equal to twice the compensatory damages award—and no further. Therefore, both the judgment and the JNOV order were affirmed. View "Contreras-Velazquez v. Family Health Centers of San Diego, Inc." on Justia Law

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Vendor Surveillance Corporation (VSC) appealed an adverse judgment in its action seeking refund unemployment insurance taxes assessed by the California Employment Development Department (EDD). The outcome turned on whether project specialists hired by VSC between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2013 (the audit years) were classified as employees or independent contractors. The issue presented by this appeal was one of first impression: whether in making that determination, the trial court should apply (1) the ABC test announced in Dynamex Operations W. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal.5th 903, (2018); or instead (2) the Borello factors (S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal.3d 341 (1989). "With little case law for guidance and an eye on appeal," the trial court analyzed the evidence alternatively under each standard and determined that project specialists were VSC’s employees. The Court of Appeal held that Borello provided the applicable standard in assessing unemployment insurance taxes during the audit years. Because the court’s findings under that standard were supported by substantial evidence and its qualitative weighing of the Borello factors was an appropriate exercise of the court’s discretion, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Vendor Surveillance Corporation v. Henning" on Justia Law

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Rio Vista Officer Collondrez responded to a hit-and-run accident. According to an internal affairs investigation, Collondrez falsified his report, arrested a suspect without probable cause, used excessive force, applied a carotid control hold on the suspect, and failed to request medical assistance. After hearings, the city agreed to pay Collondrez $35,000. Collondrez resigned. The agreement provides that Collondrez's disciplinary reports will only be released as required by law or upon legal process issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, after written notice to Collondrez. Penal Code section 832.71 was subsequently amended to require the disclosure of police officer personnel records concerning sustained findings of dishonesty or making false reports. The city responded to media requests under the Public Records Act for records, giving Collondrez prior notice of only some of the disclosures. Media outlets reported the misconduct allegations. His then-employer, Uber, fired Collondrez. Collondrez sued.The trial court partially granted the city’s to strike the complaint under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, finding that Collondrez had shown a probability of prevailing on his claims for breach of contract and invasion of privacy but not on claims for interference with prospective economic advantage and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court of appeal reversed in part, in favor of the city. The complaint arises from speech protected by the anti-SLAPP statute, but the trial court erred in finding Collondrez established a likelihood of prevailing two counts. View "Collondrez v. City of Rio Vista" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against two hospitals before the first hospital issued a final decision in the peer review proceeding addressing his reapplication. Plaintiff alleged multiple claims, including retaliation in violation of Health and Safety Code section 1278.5, a whistleblower provision that protects healthcare workers who advocate for medically appropriate care of a patient. The trial court sustained the demurrer filed by the first hospital, the hospital where plaintiff's reapplication privileges was pending.The Court of Appeal affirmed and concluded that plaintiff's claims against that hospital for unfair competition and conspiring with the second hospital to violate section 1278.5 failed to allege facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. The court explained that, in this case, the hospital had yet to take any adverse action against plaintiff and his reapplication for privileges. Furthermore, the medical staff is a separate legal entity and, thus, its recommendation to deny plaintiff's reapplication is not an act of wrongdoing by the hospital. Therefore, the cause of action against the hospital had not yet accrued. View "Bichai v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law